Too many people who get promoted into management come up short. These people are then hired into other companies since they have management experience. As everyone who's ever worked for a bad manager knows, there's big difference between bad and good management experience.
Since most of my life has been focused on finding great managers for companies to hire and I've tracked their subsequent progress, I've discovered some things that accurately predict management success. They all can be uncovered by asking candidates to describe their most significant individual and management accomplishments. With this as a starting point, here's how to dig into their answers to fully understand their management ability.
For light managers or for those who are not yet managers, look for these indicators of likely management success.
1. Whether they're more proud of their individual accomplishments or ones that involve team projects.
As you ask candidates to describe their most significant accomplishments look for a bias toward getting people to achieve a team result rather than an emphasis on individual contributor skills. The best managers-in-waiting want to leverage their team skills this way.
2. Volunteers or asks to lead team projects.
Find out what type of projects the person has volunteered to do. Those with management skills want to be involved in team projects in a leading capacity. If the person has been assigned to lead team projects, it's a clue that others in the company think the person is worth developing as a manager.
3. Assigned to bigger and more important team projects.
A track record of being assigned to expanding project roles indicates not only previous success but also upside potential.
4. Proactively coaches others.
Get examples of the person's coaching other people who are peers. If the list is endless it's an important clue the person enjoys helping others become stronger. This is a key trait of the best "coaching" managers.
5. Assigned to multifunctional teams soon after starting with a new company.
Find out how soon after starting with a company the person was assigned to work on an important multifunctional team. The sooner the better and less than six months is a great sign, especially if the person is working with important leaders in other departments and company executives.
6. Hired by a former boss to take over an important team project.
This is great forensic evidence that other people think the candidate is ready for management.
If the person is already a manager, look for these factors to determine how capable the person is.
7. Comparable leadership.
I define leadership as the ability to both visualize a solution to a complex problem and execute a successful solution. To figure this out ask the person how he/she would handle your most complex management challenge. Discuss this at length. Then ask the person to describe his/her most comparable accomplishment. Dig deep into how the person organized, staffed, and managed the effort and how successful it was. If the visualize and execution responses sync up, continue the assessment.
8. The quality of the teams they've built.
Have candidates rank the quality of the people in their department. If they're not strong, find out why. If they are all strong find out the person's grading system and how the team was hired and developed.
9. The process used to coach and develop their staff.
Be concerned if a candidate doesn't have a development plan for each person on the team. If the candidate has one, determine how good it is.
10. The quality of the people hired from a former company.
Good managers have the ability to attract strong former co-workers. The quality of these people is a direct reflection on the quality of the manager since these people have decided to follow the person.
11. The trend of growth of the size of the teams they've managed.
A manager who has been promoted into bigger management jobs is a great sign. If it happens at multiple companies it's even greater.
12. Whether the person is more proud of management or individual contributor accomplishments.
When I ask managers to describe their most significant accomplishments, I get very concerned when they describe an individual accomplishment. You should be, too.
These questions alone give you ample evidence if the person is worth promoting into a management role or hiring into a management role from the outside. Of course, you'll need to compare the management challenges in your open role on a scope, span of control, intensity and sophistication to the candidate's management accomplishments. It takes hours to do this properly but it's worth every minute when you consider the devastating impact of hiring a bad manager.